Top Tips: Get the Most Out of Your Work Term
Written By: Raina DeBrouwer

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May is upon us! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and by now, you have likely started your summer 2023 work term. For some of you, this is your very first work term with MSVU. Even if it’s not, we know that starting a new job can be overwhelming. There are new people to meet, new processes to understand, and a new full-time regimen to get used to. With all that in mind, we’ve compiled some tips for how to get the most out of your work term.

Make Use of Your Personal Learning Plan

The Personal Learning Plan is a form the MSVU Co-op Office requires you to fill out at the start of each work term. This form consists of 4-6 professional goals to be accomplished during the work term, along with goal timelines and indicators of success. The plan is to be filled out by you, then reviewed and approved by your employer. This plan is a helpful tool for several reasons:

  1. It helps you identify what you want to get out of your work term, and puts tangible metrics on paper that you can refer back to throughout your term. In any job, there will inevitably be parts that fulfill you more than others. Writing down what is particularly motivating to you will ensure you get to focus on this part of the job throughout the term.
  2. It aligns you and your supervisor on your goals for the term. Knowing what you’re hoping to get out of the work term can help your supervisor provide you with opportunities to meet your goals. If you find yourself struggling in the work term, referring back to your goals can help you and your supervisor re-focus on your priorities for the term.
  3. It keeps a record of your achievements. You will likely be pretty busy during your work term. So busy, that you might forget some of what you’ve accomplished by the end of the term. Having a record of your goals will allow you to reflect on your success and list your accomplishments on your resume once the work term concludes.

Often, we see that the most engaged and satisfied co-op, internship and work experience students are the ones that make solid use of their personal learning plans. Use this tool to set yourself up for success in your work term.

Take the Time to Make Connections

Work integrated learning is often lauded for allowing student to apply academic learning to practical work environments. While that is obviously a major benefit of your work term, it’s not the only one. The connections you make on the job can benefit you for years to come – especially in a small city like Halifax where people in specific industries tend to know each other.

Take the time to get to know your new colleagues. Ask your supervisor to introduce you to everyone if that isn’t already part of your onboarding plan. Try taking lunch in common lunch rooms if that’s an option. Join workplace committees or attend company-wide events. Not only will it expand your professional network, but you may even make a friend or two!

On a related note, be sure to leave a positive lasting impression with your colleagues rather than a negative one. It can be easy to get caught up in things like workplace drama or company happy hours. Our advice to you is to remember that leading with professionalism is always to your benefit. In the same way that professional connections can give you a leg up in the future, burned bridges can block them. Keep professional boundaries top of mind while forging new work relationships.

Open Yourself Up to Mentorship

It’s possible that you’ll meet someone on your work term who inspires you. Ideally, you’ll meet many of those people. If this does happen, consider asking someone if they would be willing to meet to talk about the industry and your career goals. While it can certainly be a nerve-wracking experience, you’ll find that most people are happy to share what they know, especially with students.

You don’t need to take on a formal “mentor” to get solid advice from the industry professionals you’re working with. Take note of people who inspire you, and feel free to ask them about how they got to where they did.

Put Your Hand Up

Are you one of the many people who learn best by doing? Luckily for you, that’s what co-op, internships and work experiences are all about! This is your opportunity to do as much as you possibly can in a structured, supportive environment. If you have extra capacity to take on projects, talk to your manager about additional opportunities to learn. If you see an exciting opportunity come up, ask to be part of it. Many organizations have regular meetings to discuss what work has been done and what’s on the docket. This is the perfect opportunity to raise your hand.

If you don’t have capacity to take on additional tasks, that’s okay. The last thing you want to do is stretch yourself thin or miss deadlines for your required tasks because your focus is on supplemental ones. Only raise your hand if you have the time and energy to do so. If you find yourself in a situation where you really want to take on a project but don’t have the time to commit to it, consider talking to your supervisor. Your Personal Learning Plan would be a great tool to use to refer back to your goals for the work term and convey the importance of taking on opportunities that help you reach those goals.

Investigate Opportunities to Stay On (If Applicable)

We are often asked by both students and employers if it would be possible for a student to stay working on a part-time basis after co-op, or to return to the organization for a future work term. In both cases, the answer is yes! Sometimes, students and workplaces just click. If you find yourself in the situation where you can see yourself staying with the organization you’re working at, investigate the opportunity to do so with your supervisor. While there shouldn’t be an expectation that additional opportunities will be available, it’s possible that your employer does have the ability and the interest to do so. It doesn’t hurt to make it known if you can see a future with your employer. You never know where it might lead.


As you get further into your work terms, try to soak everything in. This is an incredible opportunity to practice what you’ve learned in school in a supportive, real-world environment. While that’s exciting, it can be a lot of pressure. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, refer back to this list. Considering some or all of these tips will put you in a good position to be successful in your work term.